Stars’ Kero taken to hospital after leaving game vs. Blackhawks on stretcher

Joe Pavelski speaks to the media and gets emotional when discussing Tanner Kero's injury.

Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero is conscious and responsive after being taken off the ice on a stretcher Saturday following a hit from Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly.

The hit occurred early in the first period. As the Stars were executing a breakout from their own zone, Connolly hit an unsuspecting Kero at full speed, knocking him to the ice near the boards. Kero lay motionless on the ice as play was stopped and a stretcher was quickly brought out onto the ice.

“It’s terrible,” said an emotional Joe Pavelski after the game, who suffered a major head injury during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he was a member of the San Jose Sharks. “I’ve been there before. My teammates rallied around me that night.”

While medical staff attended Kero, the entire Stars roster stood nearby looking on and the Blackhawks players all kneeled on the ice near their own bench. The team announced on Twitter shortly after the game resumed that Kero was alert and being transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.

Connolly was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference for the hit. It was only the veteran forward’s second game of the season after he began the campaign in the AHL following an off-season trade from the Panthers. The Stars scored two goals during the five-minute power play.

Kero, 29, began his career in the Blackhawks organization after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015. After spending parts of three seasons with the Blackhawks, and one season with the Canucks’ former AHL team the Utica Comets, Kero signed with the Stars ahead of the 2019-20 season. In 11 NHL games this season, he has two assists.

“Tanner’s awesome,” Pavelski said. “He’s soft spoken, he works hard, he doesn’t miss a day. When he’s called on to play, he shows up. He makes great plays and he’s a great teammate.”

Editor’s Note: The following video contains footage that is graphic in nature and may be distressing for some viewers. Please use discretion before watching.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.